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The King and Queen, Stroke and Split Time.

By Alia | In Rest Day, Rowing | on September 15, 2013

photo (1)

*Stroke rate on is the bottom left corner of the left side picture and top right  in the right picture.

** Split time is the larger number followed by the ‘/500m’

Stroke rate is King and Split Time is Queen. The leaders of the kingdom known as Efficient and Fun rowing are fair and noble rulers. Hand in hand they can usher your kingdom of rowing into a long reign of peace and happiness. Let’s talk about the erg display for a second. Both stroke and split numbers can be found readily on the performance monitors.

Stroke rate defines what you may think; calculating the strokes made per minute. It is easiest to describe this as the rhythm of the row. In most elite level races, stroke rates can be anywhere from 35-50 SPM. In our case let’s keep the numbers in the 25-37 range. A higher stroke rate does not necessarily mean higher speed. Going back to my last post that suggested counting I’ll bring back the example of recovering as fast as you drive. It really won’t get you anywhere on the water. When I explain this to people, I’ve heard the argument that points out how fast Olympic level rowers look. I’ve posted a video below which was (In my very humble opinion) the most exciting race of the 2012 Olympic venue. Side note: I clearly remember being up off the couch screaming at the TV like a football fan would). Yes, at first glance you may think they are recovering as fast as their drive but notice 2 things. One, their drive is faster than their recovery, they ARE getting recovery time. Two might be a little bit harder to see from the side, but look at what happens to the boat when the rowers come up to the catch. The force of 8 strong people moving in the opposite direction of boat direction slows the boat down. If it’s hard to see, watch the water flowing underneath the oar side of a rower. Imagine if they recovered as fast as the drive. They would be working against themselves. Back to stroke. Pay attention to your screens. You will only learn what a certain stroke feels like If you practice that pace whilst looking at the screen. You should know what a 26 feels like and a 31 or even an 18. We do Clean and jerk drilling so that it becomes muscle memory when you put it all together. For runners, they don’t have to look at their feet to know that they are running a 9 minute mile, they just feel their pace. Baseball players don’t look at their arm and see a 90mph ball being thrown, it’s all in the feel. So until you know what a certain pace feels like, look at the monitor and learn what works best for you. And easy way to do this is in the warmup, or a non competitive setting. Our average warmup is 2-4 minutes on the erg. Take that time and set a stroke rate goal for yourself if the programming of the day hasn’t already done it for you. Row at an 75-80% output. See how slow you need to move during the recovery while maintaining good form and while while you keep moving. 18 is very low and somewhat challenging, especially to keep moving without any hitches or pauses. The next chance you get, row at a higher output. A 27 or 30. Find out what it is going to take for you to gain control over the various rates and use them.

Her highness, Split Time (the court rises in honor)! How do you know how far you can go without a split time? The split time is one of the bigger numbers on the monitor. It is followed by a “/500m”. Basically if you see 2:00/500m it means the rower will complete a 500m distance in 2 minutes. It is one of the biggest numbers on the screen and I feel a lot of athletes can get hung up on that number and totally ignore their pacing, sacrificing a much needed recovery for a faster split time. It is often the case when an athlete gets tired that the split rates start jumping around like a bucking bronco. 2:00, 1:45, 2:05. All within several strokes of each other. Be like a queen, proper calm and gathered. Ideally your stroke rate should stay consistent until the last few hundred meters of a race. This can also be controlled by incorporating it into a warmup. Ignoring all other numbers (for that warmup) aim for a 2:00 split time. Go higher and go lower. See what it feels like and how much control it will take to maintain that number.

Ruling the kingdom as a team. Stroke rate and split time are very different numbers and both compliment each other in that they have nothing and everything in common. Confusing right? Well, a lower stroke rate with a higher split time is more strength biased. The athlete is driving hard, therefore covering a lot of water but taking a little bit longer of a recovery. This will usually result in heavier use of the anaerobic systems. The alternate, higher stroke rate with lower split time, the aerobic system is being employed and the athlete moves much faster but sacrifices covering a little less water. There is no right or wrong in the combination of these numbers. They are simply a piece of your arsenal of awesome to use when you hop on an erg. In a longer Crossfit workout such as “Jackie” you will want to game out your 1000m row. Find a happy medium that will allow for recovery while incorporating a strong drive; I will row at XX Stroke rate and have X:XX Split Time. Play with these two numbers when you get time. See what rowing at 20 SPM for 500m feels like. Try to maintain a set split time for 500m. Or combine the two. Row Happy!

Video from the Olympic channel on YouTube.

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